Montgomery mothers build app for college visits


Susan Jones and Elizabeth Van Sant, both of Chevy Chase, created their app after learning that nothing like it existed on the market. (Greg Dohler/The Gazette)
September 12, 2012

Two local moms hope to make college hunting a little easier with a new smartphone application that helps families plan visits to prospective schools.

Chevy Chase residents Susan Jones, 68, and Elizabeth Van Sant, 54, created Quad2Quad, a company whose iPhone/iPad app of the same name provides information on interviews, tours, parking and other details related to 74 colleges in the United States.

They hope to add 300 more colleges in the next two months and have a social-networking feature planned for the future.

The one-stop shop for planning visits consolidates information from a variety of colleges, which they hope will make planning college tours easier for high school students.

Van Sant, a freelance educational consultant for boarding schools and colleges, is chief operating officer of Quad2Quad. She toured more than 100 schools with her four children, a process she said was made more difficult because of information being buried on school Web sites. She sometimes had to make multiple calls to gather information.

“One of the biggest challenges was trying to find some of the information on the Web site, such as tours and information sessions,” she said. “I went to Susan [Jones] when I was planning trips for my fourth [child] and said, ‘There has to be an easier way.’ ”

After doing some research, they discovered there was nothing on the market that would help.

Quad2Quad took two years to develop from an idea into a soft release, a method of testing a product launched to a limited audience. A hard release to the public is scheduled for the middle of this month. It has already been downloaded nearly 1,000 times, with a little help from their children, who have promoted the app on their Facebook pages.

Jones, chief executive of the company, said it cost less than $100,000 to develop the application, significantly lower than the original estimate of $200,000 to $300,000. Jones is a former psychotherapist who has worked for the past six years as an educational consultant and career coach for Dunbar Educational Consultants.

“There were times we just wanted to pack it in, and I think the reason we didn’t is because we are passionate about this,” she said. “We both think this is software that people want and need and will benefit people’s lives.”

She visited about 30 schools with her two sons. Some colleges changed their tour schedule every month and were not always upfront about whether they offered interviews, and how to get one if they did, she said.

Although both women are finished with the college search for their own children, they hope their application, which was put together by a software developer, will spark the interest of students, who often rely on parents to plan their college tours.

“I really think it facilitates the college visit planning process,” Van Sant said. “Hopefully it’ll get the young people, the high school juniors and seniors, more engaged and become part of the process, as opposed to have their parents do it all for them.”

Quad2Quad is available from Apple’s App Store. The download is free with one Boston itinerary, which includes five colleges. Buyers can gain access to all 74 colleges with a one-time upgrade charge of $4.99, which includes all future updates. The upgrade will be discounted to 99 cents today and Friday.

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